If you’re looking for the most accurate, complete and useful information on cannabis (marijuana/hemp), you’ll want to acquire Jack Herer’s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes (1985+). Much of it can also be digested in Herer’s 1-hr video of the same name. Meanwhile, in this article I’ll touch upon certain significant elements related to prohibition … its demonization and criminalization. I will also relate briefly my own experiences and expertise as to both its use and distribution…
Despite a growing number of states legalizing marijuana, the drug remains a federal Schedule I Narcotic (declaring it as having no socio-medical value). The federal gov’t and 27 states at this writing still prohibit its growth, possession and distribution.
The prohibition of cannabis/hemp in the US did not occur naturally thru a negative impact on society, nor did it descend in due course from our inherited puritanical morals. Quite contrary. It was deliberately created as a corporatist enterprise, followed those market dynamics, and this is part of that story…
The most recent drug war stats at DrugPolicy.org reveal that 693,482 souls in the US alone (2013, the latest complete stats) were arrested for marijuana violations (88% for possession). Some 40,000 remain in state and federal prisons.
The general terms for the plant in its many forms and uses is cannabis or hemp. The Mexican expression for its use as a psychoactive intoxicant, marijuana (Mary Jane), became popular after the Mexican Revolution, circa the 1920s.
“La Cucaracha,” was a Mexican children’s song w/a catchy tune about a crazy cockroach that had to have his “marijuana.” It became popular with revolutionists who surreptitiously whistled or hummed the tune as a means to identify each other…
While it seems silly, it was no different than the American Revolutionary song, “Yankee Doodle,” that started off as a Brit drinking tune mocking the colonists.
Cannabis originated in Central and South Asia. It was one of humankind’s earliest agricultural crops going back some 10,000-yrs.
Usage evolved over time that included woven fabric-cloth, housing, cordage, canvas, lighting oil, food oil, consumptive protein, paper, incense, psychotropics (religious) and medicinal extracts.
Over 90% of all ship’s sails from before the Phoenicians (500 BCE) into the late 19th Century were made from hemp. (The Dutch term for “canvas” is a derivation of cannabis.) In addition to sails, hemp also produced ropes, nets, flags, shrouds, and oakum (sealant).
Hemp canvas was a superior medium for Van Gogh, Gainsborough, Rembrandt and others. Clearly, the durability and superiority of such use is evident over the centuries.
For thousands of yrs, the best paints and varnishes were made from hempseed oil. Until 1800, it was also the most consumed lighting oil in the world. After about 1870, it became second to whale oil in the US and spread from there. Were we all (including the whales) better off?
Thereafter, petro-chemicals (plastics and synthetic fibers) and fossil fuels controlled the industry (aided and abetted by politicians on the take and the laws they enacted).
For at least 3,000-yrs, marijuana extracts were commonly used as accepted medicines. Further, hempseed can be pressed into vegetable oil, which contains the highest amounts of essential fatty acids in the plant kingdom.
Hempseed is, in fact, a food source for human nutrition and can be ground into cakes, breads and casseroles.
One acre of hemp produces as much cellulose fiber as 4-acres of trees and can easily replace all particle board and other mass-industry items, including most paper and cardboard products.
It’s superior, cheaper and more replenishable than wood pulp. However, in our early colonization and western development of the nation, virgin forests extended beyond the horizon. Profiteers reckoned, why even take the trouble and expense to farm hemp when the environment provided “free” resources?
As with mines, railroads and other industries, private corporatists were able to have their political cadre legislate free access and ownership to these natural resources. But what worked profitably for them is not what the rest of us ended up with…
Presidents Washington, Jefferson and others grew Hemp as a major cash crop. It was so important to the colonial economy that hemp cultivation was mandatory in many areas. During certain critical periods in revolutionary America, you could be jailed for NOT growing hemp. From 1631 into the 1800s, hemp was legal tender ($$) and could be used to pay one’s taxes.
Hemp was a critical product in early America because it included 80% of all textiles and fabrics. Depending on seed/plant growing density, it’s softer than cotton w/3-times the tensile strength and durability. Up until the 1830s, Irish and Italian linen were produced from the ubiquitous hemp plant.
During World War-II, the US alone produced 42,000 tons of hemp for the war effort (Russia produced 400,000 tons in the same period). This included being a critical component in the manufacture of dynamite. However, the prohibition of marijuana in the 1930’s–one use of hemp–is one of the greatest merchantile-profiteering schemes in history.
Demonization and condemnation of a product as the spawn of a racist, nativist threat in their lives, is a perfectly apt description of how a small but powerful ruling elite can convince people to go completely contrary to their own interests.
(I’ve always found it quite extraordinary when I track history to its many roots just how surprising simple and personal it can be. We all-too-often over-complicate causes…)
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) owned a vast media empire. Hearst also owned the forests and their products that supplied his paper as well as having vast interests in petroleum properties.
Further, among his holdings was over a million acres of prime ranch-land in Mexico and Hearst fancied that he could eventually control that nation’s entire resources.
Almost single-handedly, Hearst created and nurtured the Spanish-American War of 1898. He was a friend to Hispanic dictators who he believed could best serve his business interests.
Revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza threatened both his property and his relations w/the Mexican dictator, Porfirio Diaz. After the 1910-20 success of the Mexican Revolution and the forced sale of Hearst’s Mexican estates back to the gov’t, he developed an abiding racist/nativist hatred for all things Mexican.
From this genesis was born a corporatist alliance. The major players were: Wm. Randolph Hearst; the DuPonts and their patented processes for making plastics from oil, coal and wood pulp; Andrew Mellon (Mellon Bank), DuPont’s chief financial backer; and Harry J. Anslinger, Mellon’s nephew-in-law and Director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs (1930-’62).
His media empire and their gov’t/legislation manufactured a connection in the public mind (a specialty of the Hearst media empire, like Murdoch/Fox “news” today) between “marijuana” (cannabis/hemp) and a racist/nativist threat on white Christian women and society by sex-crazed black and Mexican drug addicts. Thus “Reefer Madness” was born.
Over the course of the War on Drugs, over 40 million drug arrests have been made since 1971 alone. (In Mexico, there are an estimated 50,000 annual deaths attributed to the drug war related to control of the US drug market.) This distorted and manufactured drug market exists almost solely thru the creation of prohibition laws.
My own experiences w/drugs spanned a period from 1966 thru ’83. I started w/reefer, which I bought from black co-workers in our Detroit factory job. Small match-boxes of leaf, seeds and stems mulched in a blender went for $15, lids (tobacco tins) for $25. (These terms were carried over in the white trade to baggies…)
Uppers and downers were always ubiquitous in the student market, but I only tried them a few times. Didn’t like chasing l’esprit d’escalier (“the staircase wit”).
Reefer made me too self-conscious/anxious, so I rarely indulged after about ’72. I had my summer of ’68 on several LSD and ‘sroom trips, but they were more guided clinical affairs with Dr. Robin Barraco, WSU med-school, than just seeking stoned pleasure-highs. They were also way too long (8-hrs+) and intense for normal use.
Cocaine, however, was another trip altogether. (Albeit, my personal use became abusive and ended in ’73.) I had been introduced to cocaine in the white, middle-class market, WSU Detroit (which I attended on the GI Bill from 1968).
In the white market, reefer was sold by weight, not volume. Far better quality control. Seeds and stems were mostly removed and a “lid”–usually an ounce in a baggie–went for $30 bucks-or-so (while market supply tended to drive down prices, rising quality also made it rise.)
In accord w/the usual profit-market drives, those with better sources could gather funds from friends and purchase larger quantities. After distributing the shares, what was left over became one’s larger share and profit.
This grew exponentially. By the summer of ’71 I was dealing in hundreds of pounds. This also expanded my exposure to more clientele than just mainly my fellow students and the political activist scene to include professionals, including musicians, professors, doctors, lawyers, cops, politicians and others.
All this was a sporadic occasional sideline to my normal life. I’ve never been sociopathically driven in any quest for personal wealth. In ’73, after spending much of 3-yrs back-and-forth trips for journalism and political tourism in the Middle East, East Africa, etc., I became a criminal/civil investigator for area law firms in Detroit. (That lasted from 1973-thru-’89). I also acquired the skill of flying (land and sea).
As I occasionally took advantage of opportunities (drug clients were among my casework) and moved up the wholesale ladder, I discovered an appetite in my customers (and sources) for other drugs … in particular cocaine. And some market realities…
While pounds of reefer were flipping (wholesale units) for around $130, a kilo of coke (2.2 lbs.) went for $50,000 back then. That’s over $265,000 in today’s money! ONE KILO! (Today, 2015, a kilo of coke in Detroit runs around $30,000.)
While there were certainly those around w/pathological compulsions, for the most part, folks had relatively solid social-safety nets. The vast majority of customers, as w/alcohol, did not develop addictions; they partied down on their off-time and/or alternative life-styles.
I’ve written elsewhere of my being belatedly charged in 1989 w/cocaine conspiracy. For my refusal to plea bargain or “cooperate” in return for my freedom (rat-out previous associates and clients), I went to trial and got 25+yrs in federal prison. The links are here, so I won’t burden this article further.
Throughout the movement, in virtually every org, is a “security officer,” whose duties include vetting and commanding “underground fund-raising” activities. We keep such activities separate and only between certain leader-liaisons.
Think of the old TV drama, “Mission Impossible.” Once you assume an assignment, you accept that you’re own (in so far as Movement-liability is concerned). We’re not unique. We basically copied the existing franchise of a variety of gov’t agencies, major corporations, etc.
(“Good morning, Mr. Phelps. Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it… As always should any member of your IMF force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck Jim.”)
(J. Edgar Hoover didn’t believe in the Mafia as a criminal organization, per se, because he simply perceived of it as the right-wing of the corporatist structure.)
Nixon’s Halderman and Ehlichman; Reagan’s Col. Oliver North, Admiral Poindexter and MacFarland; and Bush-Cheney’s Scooter Libby, etc., all performed illicit tasks for their leaders/orgs that they understood were NEVER to be accredited directly beyond them.
In our case, after the DEA/CIA popularized the crack market circa 1983, it altered the cultural/political market of cocaine completely. The movement was now faced w/a mass of Black, Hispanic and poor who were being devastated by the drug in its crack form.
As w/reefer, there was a difference in the marketing of coke between the more affluent vs. poor communities. The middle and upper classes generally purchased powder cocaine at, say, gram weights for about $100, which they snorted.
With crack, poor communities could purchase $5, $10 and $20 rocks (volume measure), which they smoked. The latter high/rush was far more instantaneous, powerful and psychologically addicting.
Simply stated, neocon cadre of the gov’t employed the market to get the poorest communities of America to pay for their war. Actually, just another twist on what they routinely do to get the public to fund all of their war-profit ventures.
As for us, as profitable and ubiquitous as the market was, the Movement could no longer tolerate any underground fund-raising on the backs of such a socio-political reality. Thus, all quasi-sanctioned Movement activities involving cocaine profiteering ceased after 1983.
Imagine my surprise when some six years later the gov’t decides to prosecute me… But not having any testimony or evidence [Bush Sr. signed an order forbidding the DEA and CIA to testify at my trial…for either side], the local state-thugs in Detroit simply inserted me into one of their then-current cases, sold the farm [gave free rides to those who agreed to testi-lie] and Voila! 25-yrs in prison.
Truth be told, there were plenty of ups and downs behind the razor-wire… Given my conviction (3% of prisoners refuse deals and go to trial), the draconian sentence, non-violent, first-offender and clear political elements to my case, I tended to enjoy relative high status among both prisoners and many staff.
I usually had a well-paid clerical position to prison staff (they could clearly trust me, ironic, eh?). After 16-yrs behind the walls, I was sent to Maxwell AFB, AL, where I was attached to the Air Force as a dog-trainer for 2-yrs, then to Pensacola NAS, FL, for another 2-yrs where I was sent to a Naval Officers school for Haz-Mat training and assigned my own crew as supervisor.
Life can be a very interesting bitch…
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), September 2015…